Microsoft Messenger Faces Ides of March Shutdown

Microsoft is shutting down Messenger chat in mid-March, but users needn't fret. The company says Skype is up to the task of keeping people in touch.

It's official. Microsoft is shutting down its Live Messenger service March 15.

Come mid-March, Messenger's estimated 100 million users—with the exception of those in mainland China—will be fully transitioned to Skype, the popular voice over IP (VOIP) service that Microsoft acquired in 2011. Similar to rival platforms like Google+ Chat, Live Messenger provides instant messaging and video chat.

Microsoft delivered the news to Messenger users in an email. "On 15th March 2013 we are retiring the existing Messenger service globally (except for mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available) and bringing the great features of Messenger and Skype together," wrote the company.

Microsoft snapped up Skype in a blockbuster deal worth $8.5 billion. Skype, which boasts more than 600 million accounts, is available for most platforms, including Apple's Mac and iOS, Google's Android, and of course, Windows.

Lately, the software giant has been making a big push to position Skype as the company's flagship online voice, video and chat service. Skype is the standard-issue, Internet-based communications app for Windows 8. Office 2013 will ship built-in hooks for Skype among its connectivity options.

With Messenger's demise, Microsoft is signaling that the company is aligning its user platform strategy for the mobile and bring your own device (BYOD) era.

In November, Skype Division President Tony Bates first announced via an official blog post that Microsoft would be retiring Messenger. He assured users that the transition would be fairly seamless. By downloading Skype and entering their Microsoft account credentials, Bates informed Messenger users that their contacts would be waiting for them—with enhanced functionality to boot.

Indeed, Microsoft reiterated the seamlessness of process in its email advisory.

"Update to Skype and sign in using a Microsoft Account (same as your Messenger ID) and all your Messenger contacts will be at your fingertips. You'll be able to instant message and video chat with them just like before, and also discover new ways of staying in touch with Skype on your mobile and tablet," stated Microsoft.

In addition to chat, ex-Messenger users can expect video calls (both group and one-on-one), screen sharing and even calls to landline numbers. Bates also boasted that Skype is a more mobile-friendly way of keeping in touch with friends, family and work colleagues.

Among Skype's selling points, Bates mentioned "broader device support for all platforms, including iPad and Android tablets." He also included "video calling on mobile phones" and "video calling with Facebook friends" among the software's tablet- and smartphone-friendly features.

Shuttering Messenger is also a sign of Microsoft's newfound willingness to cut loose offerings that compete with its strongest brands and technology assets for users. Last Month, Microsoft announced that Live Mesh, the company's cloud-based file-syncing service, would be closing shop. As an alternative, Microsoft pointed Live Mesh users to its popular cloud file storage service, SkyDrive.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...